SFUSD #2WeekPause for COVID Safety

SFUSD #2WeekPause for COVID Safety

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Greg M started this petition to Supertintendent of Schools Dr. Vincent Matthews

JANUARY 10th, 2022

As educators, we want nothing more than to be in the classroom with our students fostering healthy and collaborative learning environments. Due to mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis by San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), this has become impossible. Due to lack of proper testing, PPE, staffing, and investments in facilities, the dream of uninterrupted in-person learning has turned into a nightmare of infection, frustration, and disruption. That's why we need a #2WeekPause districtwide to ensure that in-person learning can continue safely and productively with all the proper resources and procedures in place.

In SFUSD, calls from educators, students, and families alike to halt or even slow our return have been ignored as Omicron continues to surge unabated. As of Friday, 1/9/22, San Francisco is exceeding 1,400 COVID cases a day, a rate which is "the highest of the pandemic." We have returned to school sites that are in violation of the health & safety memorandum of understanding [MOU] between SFUSD and United Educators of San Francisco (UESF). SFUSD refused to bargain in good faith with UESF on Thursday, January 6th, a day which coincided with a grassroots sickout by educators all overt— close to 900 employee absences, over 300 more than the day before. The looming sickout seemed to provoke SFUSD to provide some limited PPE to staff (KN95 masks to staff, although not all of these masks were actual virus-blocking respirators) and increase testing services at 555 Franklin, although these weekend tests were marred by long lines and low supply. These measures are simply insufficient. Child hospitalizations are on the rise, and doctors have warned of a possible correlation between COVID and diabetes in children. Due to its infectiousness and potential complications for young people and people with comorbidities, Omicron is nowhere near the “mild variant” some have claimed it to be.

In light of these factors, the SFUSD Student Advisory Council released this powerful and persuasive letter based on a comprehensive survey of 3,250 SFUSD students from schools all over the city. Of those surveyed, "57.9% of respondents feel unsafe or somewhat unsafe with attending school in-person" while "85.3% of students stated that they would feel safe or somewhat safe" with a virtual option. Students go on to recommend that the District make a hybrid option which could be "available for a period of at least 2-3 weeks as we wait for the surge of cases to slow down." We applaud these students for standing up for what they believe is right and we support their struggle for a reasonable hybrid option and a 2-3 week pause.

The COLOR testing service is a mess. Many educators who went to get tested at 555 Franklin on Thursday have yet to receive any test results prior to Monday morning, when they are expected to return back to school sites. How on earth are we supposed to keep ourselves and our students safe with no access to prompt, effective, and accurate testing? Most school workers are not even getting tested weekly. It’s an opt-in system, and the testing windows are often brief and inconvenient hours for overworked school employees. Omicron breaks through vaccines and boosters and can have a short incubation period. We need regular mandatory testing for all employees and students to ensure that major outbreaks do not occur. Everyone in schools must be screened, and if “we can’t afford it,” we shouldn’t be open at all: students who live in multigenerational households and workers with immunocompromised dependents risk bringing home a potentially deadly virus. We need a #2WeekPause in schooling to put the necessary testing protocols in place if we are to safeguard in-person learning for everyone.

Most UCs and SFSU are starting this semester remotely. Schools around the country are following suit after record absences and positive tests. Oakland Teachers led a sickout and car caravan to protest current conditions, and their students are now circulating a petition echoing their teachers' demands. Chicago Teachers have been locked out by their mayor, but their students are also organizing to back up their teachers. Similar sentiments are being shared daily by the increasingly stressed students of many San Francisco schools.

A two-week pause would also be the safest course of action for SFUSD, yet none of the well-paid decision makers seem to be considering limiting or slowing Spring reopening in any way. It is up to all of us, the school community members, to make these powerful people acknowledge the truth: we must pause in-person schooling for two weeks so that cases will decrease and SFUSD can have time to work with the City and State to implement more robust safety and testing measures across all sites. Of course this process will cost money and time, but it will also save lives, and nothing is more important than that.

In SFUSD, we have been back for one week and have had at least 500 COVID cases. That's more COVID cases than the whole of Fall Semester 2021. This is unsustainable. We ask educators, staff, students, community members, and families of San Francisco Unified School District join us in demanding the following:


1. We ALL go to remote learning for a two-week period to flatten the curve and get testing, high quality masks, and contact tracing systems in place. The working and learning conditions in San Francisco schools are completely unsafe and learning has been totally disrupted. It serves neither teachers nor students to be in-person right now. Hayward, Milpitas and other Bay Area districts have are initiating similar pauses.


2. One-to-one chromebooks for all students in SFUSD during a two-week Pause and for the remainder of the Pandemic. We are 50 miles from Silicon Valley and San Francisco is the "Tech Capital" of the world—yet one-to-one chromebooks have NOT been made available to all students at all sites.  Currently students are at home for days because they are in quarantine awaiting test results OR they are COVID positive. Many sites do not have one-to-one Chrombooks and consequently students do not have the learning resources to continue learning. It is mandated in SFUSD Board Policy and California Ed Code that the district provide all learning materials for all students.


3. Either an improvement in the COLOR testing services so that all results are available within 24 hours OR a transition from the COLOR testing service to a more effective partnership with local clinics and hospitals which can provide rapid-testing, take-home kits, PCR testing, and other COVID care services. The current delays, inaccuracies, and exorbitant costs of COLOR are unacceptable, especially during a global health emergency. COLOR currently lacks the infrastructure to keep us safe.
4. A designated COVID nurse at each school site so that our current school nurses may resume their other vital activities.
5. Support for contact tracing. Currently our Admin are running the school, substituting in classes daily and contact tracing. This is unsustainable. 
6. Daily disposable high-quality KN95 masks made available to ALL Staff and students, including proper fitting instructions provided by the district. We expect a uniform, zero tolerance policy around mask compliance except in cases of documented health needs.


7. We demand a restoration of 10 COVID Sick Days for all members of United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), the union which covers teachers, paraprofessionals, substitutes, security guards, and many other workers. A restoration of 10 COVID Sick Days for all members of United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), the union which covers teachers, paraprofessionals, substitutes, security guards, and many other workers.

8. A payroll slot so that teachers can open enroll for the CTA endorsed The Standard Disability insurance. A payroll slot will allow us to lead a campaign to sign up (via a paycheck deduction) for our 6200 UESF members for Disability Insurance, without penalties or restrictions for pre-existing conditions. Most teachers don't qualify for State Disability Insurance and have to pay for insurance and our own substitutes out of their own pockets. Disability Insurance is vital during a time when staff is under financial strain and under great stress due to COVID and pending site budget cuts. Also, it is common knowledge the COVID has disproportionately affected our Black, Brown and Pacific Islander communities, and as a result has disproportionately affected staff from those communities. The first step is a SFUSD payroll slot. This is an urgent and important matter and an SFUSD payroll slot should be considered and approved  in a timely manner.

If we do not receive immediate response and implementation of these demands, we will continue to organize escalating labor actions to keep our communities safe.

by Rori A., Susie K., and Greg M., with input from the SFUSD community

Some actions we have already taken:

Change.org Petition - SFUSD: Spring 2022 Mental Health Days Off - Please sign!
Grievance against SFUSD for COVID Safety filed on 12/29/21 - Please share with your staff!
Possible Actions for Safety (UESF Members) January 2022 (inspired by Chicago Teachers Union) Please fill out and share with your staff
Petition for an Emergency COVID Safety Board Meeting before January 3, 2022
Change.org Petition  A district-wide sickout on Thursday, January 6th
Media Coverage

Media Coverage
The Standard 1/4/22 - Amid Staff, Test and Mask Shortages, Teacher Group Plans ‘Sick-Out’
The Standard 1/6/22 Union-District Negotiations Pushed to Next Week as Educators Call Out Sick En Masse
The SF Chronicle 1/5/22 ‘Shut the whole system down’: S.F. teachers plan sickout as schools struggle amid omicron surge
The New York Times 1/8/22 As More Teachers’ Unions Push for Remote Schooling, Parents Worry. So Do Democrats.
The Washington Post 1/7/22 Canceled buses and a superintendent in the classroom: How omicron has thrown schools into crisis
The Guardian 1/8/22 ‘Morale is low’: US teachers push back on school reopenings amid Omicron wave
Kron 4 1/6/22 Some San Francisco teachers stage ‘sickout’ for COVID safety
KPIX 1/6/22 COVID: San Francisco Unified Faces Potential Teacher Sickout Amid Omicron Surge
KPFA 1/7/22 SF Teachers stage a sick out
SF Examiner 1/6/22  Why one SFUSD teacher skipped school to join the ‘sick out’
ABC 7 1/6/22 SF Unified classes not interrupted despite 874 sick calls in 1 day from teachers, paraeducators

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!
At 2,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!